Eating Vegan Can be Easy!

It's intimidating to think about cutting dairy and meat completely out from your diet, especially if you love cheese and yogurt like me.  But cutting back on your dairy and meat intake will make a big impact on your body. You'll be consuming less bad fats and more healthy fats which will help you feel and look better.

Note: I'm not strictly Vegan but I have cut back on meat and dairy in my diet and often eat Vegan meals.

There are easy ways to start incorporating Vegan eating into your diet and cutting out certain animal products. Check out some of the tips below that I use regularly to help you start a transition to more plant-based healthier eating.

You can also find a great guide from Vegan.com that walks you through the first three weeks of a vegan diet if you want to make the switch completely.

1. Soups - I love to make soup when it's cold and flu season because it's packed full of vegetables and nutrients. For chicken noodle soup, instead of chicken just use beans! Super easy substitute! I like to add lentils because they absorb all of the flavors but you can use any beans you like. I also like navy beans in this kind of soup. Try using brown rice pasta instead of egg noodles for an even healthier boost.

2. Coffee Creamer - I've been a half and half girl almost my whole life. I tried using almond milk or soy milk in my coffee but it just wasn't thick enough. Canned Coconut Milk is where it's at. It's thick and mild in flavor so it has a similar consistency to half and half.  It's the best vegan substitute for half and half that I've found! I use it plain but you can add vanilla, cinnamon, honey or any other flavors to make your own healthy coffee creamer.  Make sure to use regular canned coconut milk and not the low fat kind. The milk loses the nutrients when the fat is cut out. Also check for BPA-free cans.

3. Pasta - I love pasta and I've found some great alternatives to add more protein into my diet while still getting my noodle fix. It's pretty easy now to find quinoa pasta. This tastes similar to 'regular' pasta but a step in the healthier direction. At Kroger I've discovered tofu noodles in the organic refrigerated section. These are amazing (and affordable too)! Tofu basically has no taste so these noodles just absorb whatever flavors you use. Using protein packed pasta allows you to cut out the meat in your tomato sauce. Try adding chopped vegetables into your sauce instead.

4. Tomato Sauce - like I said, I love pasta. I add lentils and chopped vegetables like zucchini, squash and mushrooms into my tomato sauce so it's got great texture and packed full of nutrients. Chop up your veggies extra small and add plenty of fresh garlic and onion so you have a flavorful sauce to top on your quinoa or tofu noodles!

5. Milk - there are so many great milk alternatives available now. My husband and I drink almond milk at home but you can also get soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, etc.  Make sure when you buy non-dairy milks that you get ones without Carrageeneen. Typically the refrigerated milks don't have it but always check your label.

6. Butter - Coconut oil and olive oil are great substitutes for butter.  I love to use coconut oil in baking. Next time you're making brownies use coconut oil and bananas instead of butter and eggs. Trust me, you will love them.

7. Meat - there are so many great products that can be used a meat substitutes. Try going meatless for 2-3 meals a week as a transition and see how easy it is! Use tofu and peanuts in your stir fry or beans in your enchiladas. Instead of a turkey sandwich do a Mediterranean version with hummus and veggies. Mushrooms are full of vitamin D and have a nice meaty texture. Grill up a mushroom cap in place of a beef burger.

These are just a few easy ways to incorporate Vegan eating into your diet.  Start small and take it a few steps at a time. Before you know it you'll be eating better and feeling better!

Great resource for all things Vegan - http://www.vegan.com/